Debate was a disappointing season opener
And the debate season is in full swing.
Swing might be the operative word … as both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump came out swinging during last week’s first-of-three debates. And more of the same can be expected when vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence square off in their one meeting tomorrow night.
More than 84 million Americans watched the first debate – a recordbreaking audience. The previous record of 80 million viewers goes all the way back to the debate between Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter in 1980.
How many of the 84 million viewers were disappointed by what they saw is still not clear. One thing for sure, those who wanted to see bloodshed in that first debate definitely were among the disappointed.
Trump had plenty of chances to “go for the jugular,” but did not strike. Whether it was because he was unprepared or because he made a conscious decision to paint a “presidential” portrait is unknown. Only those in his inner circle hold the answer.
Clinton, on the other hand, had her claws sharpened. She went after her opponent on issues concerning his tax returns and his treatment of a Miss Universe contestant more than 20 years ago. However, Clinton’s jabs lacked the destructive force some of her supporters wanted to see because they came in her typically scripted form … and were delivered with the constant, painted-on smile that was obviously part of her pre-debate strategy.
There was no doubt that she was not smiling inside, as Trump delivered some of his accusations about failed international policies and a faulty economic plan to continue the snail’s-pace recovery during the Barack Obama administration.
Of course, almost as important as the debate – in terms of swaying public sentiment – is the post-debate analysis from the media. And the public polls. They can reflect two vastly different opinions, since the mainstream media seems to be squarely in the corner of Clinton. The widely criticized work of moderator Lester Holt during the presidential debate is prime evidence of that fact.
But, out of the haze created by the debate and the post-debate analysis, I was surprised to see an almost-forgotten image emerge from decades ago.
It was my junior year at Villanova University. Carrying a double-major in history and political science, I was entering the meat of my chosen curriculum. In this particular political science class, two teams were selected for a debate. The rest of the class served as the audience.
I was part of one three-student team – the one that clearly won the debate. But I was far from the star. In fact, in large part, I sat back and watched the debate brilliance of one of my
He was a Cuban refugee. His family escaped Cuba in 1959, during the heat of Fidel Castro’s bloody ascent to power.
His father owned a small sugar plantation. It was one of the properties targeted for confiscation by the communist rebels.
At the last moment, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever gold they could hide in their mouths, the family boarded a private plane to leave their island home forever. As bullets ripped through the fuselage of the plane, the family made a miraculous escape and settled in South Florida.
As was typical for so many of the Cuban refugees from that era, they worked hard and forged a very successful life in America. Perhaps it was the struggles of his early childhood that made this refugee-turned-Villanova-political-sciencestudent such a passionate and focused debater.
His performance that day was eloquent, organized, fittingly emotional and convincing. He left no doubt in the minds of the audience that his point of view was the correct one.
At this point, it is probably pie-in-the-sky dreaming to hope for somewhat of the same performance from those who will be squarely in the spotlight during this debate season. They have already showed their strategies … and their weaknesses.
It’s probably too late for these two leopards to change their spots. But they most certainly could have learned a great lesson from that Villanova political science class … so many years ago. Tony Leodora is president of TL Golf Services, host of the weekly GolfTalk Live radio show on WNTP 990-AM and host of the Traveling Golfer television show — as well as editor of GolfStyles magazine. He is former sports editor of The Times Herald. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.